Immigration Detention Contracts Shift In California

The city of Adelanto took steps late last month to end its contract with U.S. immigration authorities and a private prison company for the 1,900 bed-center some 60 miles (97 km) northeast of Los Angeles amid complaints of shoddy conditions and inadequate medical care. A recent California law aimed at pushing back against the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown bars local governments like Adelanto’s from growing their detention contracts. But it doesn’t block companies like Boca Raton, Florida-based The GEO Group from doing so.

“Without us being involved, they can expand,” said Stevevonna Evans, an Adelanto councilwoman who opposed ending the contract. She said she discussed the issue with GEO officials several times. “I had three meetings with them where they were trying to get me to see it their way — GEO is for this happening.”

The move comes during an ongoing battle between California officials and the Trump administration over immigration enforcement. After Trump’s election on promises of a border wall, California passed laws limiting police collaboration with deportation officials, requiring detention center reviews and halting the growth of local contracts for immigration detention.

Over the past year, several California counties have opted to end their contracts, including Contra Costa in the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange in Southern California. In those cases, the county sheriff’s departments ran the facilities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and once the contracts end, the immigration detention centers will cease to exist.

In contrast, Adelanto and the city of McFarland in central California are withdrawing from the contracts they entered so GEO could run facilities for ICE. At the time, such deals were seen by cities as a way to secure revenue and local jobs, and it meant that the facilities could open without going through a federal bidding process.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has now signed a one-year contract directly with GEO to keep the 400-bed Mesa Verde facility open while they evaluate options. In the case of Adelanto, it’s unclear what will happen to the facility, which is owned by GEO.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it will keep Adelanto open as long as there is a viable contract and “explore all options to continue the use of all current facilities.”

By Associated Press for INQUIRER.NET

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